This was the episode that a lot of Lost fans were waiting for since the Season 4 finale (probably earlier) and unlike a lot of the other episodes that promised solution, this one, for a change, delivered. And did so in grand style. How did Locke end up off the island? When did he visit the Oceanic 6 (plus Walt)? Why was he using the name Jeremy Bentham? How did that obituary that everybody in the Season 3 finale freeze framed their VCR's for, end up in the paper, thus guaranteeing the return trip to the island? We get a lot of answers, but as always we get a different set of question.
When Locke moved the donkey wheel, he ended up in the exact same place Ben did when he moved the island--- the deserts of Tunisia. Only this time, there were cameras watching that spot. We know who put them there, because the same men who confronted Ben in 'The Shape of Things to Come' arrive and take him... to safety. Locke then comes face to face with the man he's been told is the islands sworn enemy --- Charles Widmore.
Widmore seems more friendly than he ever has to anyone. This has to do with the fact that the man he saw walk into his camp in 1954 is now here (in 2007, like Ben, Locke has traveled through time) without having aged a day. The picture he paints is a much different one than the one we got from Ben --- Ben exiled him from the island after three decades (though again, we never find out how or why) and he has spent the last twenty years or so searching for it. He knows that the Oceanic 6 have been lying, and has been keeping watch on them. Understandably, this is something of a hard sell, and Locke doesn't know why Widmore has decided to help him. He claims that a war is coming, and unless he's back on the island when it happens, the wrong side is going to win. (Widmore is right, but because of his meddling, the wrong side triumphs anyway)
Locke is given money and the false name Jeremy Bentham. (Widmore than delivers one of the episodes few laughs when he explains the name: "Your parents had a sense of humor when they named you, so why can't I?) The man who is going to guide him through this journey is none other than Matthew Abaddon, and Locke just manages to hide his recognition. Perhaps he is more distracted by the fact that Abaddon brings out a wheelchair for him to travel in. Yes, Locke has a broken leg, but he could've hobbled about on crutches. This seems deliberate, as if Abaddon wants Locke to fail at his journey.
One by one, we follow Locke as he travels the world making his visits. When he finds Sayid in Santo Domingo, doing humanitarian work, he treats Locke with barely veiled contempt. He seems to have gained some kind of equilibrium, but one wonders just how polite he would've been had he known who was financing Locke's trip. Locke then goes to New York to visit Walt. I'm still not sure why he went there (maybe he thought of using him to substitute for one of the Oceanic 6) but Walt was the only one who wasn't surprised to see him, and actually seems glad that he's here. He tells him he had a dream, and on it Locke was back on the island, in a suit, and people wanted to hurt him. Now we all know Walt is special, and maybe he had a bit of foresight here, but Locke, who wanted for Walt to embrace it on the island, shrugs it off, and can't bring himself to bring this young man back into the madness that is sure to ensue.
Locke than travels to California, where he visits Hurley at Santa Rosa. AT first Hurley just thinks he dead, but even when he sees that Locke is alive he's indifferent, and he goes positively haywire when he sees that Abaddon is guided him. Even when tells Locke that Abaddon is not to be trusted, Locke ignores it, and Hurley just walks away, convinced he's evil. Abaddon then admits that he was disguised as an orderly when he saw him at the hospital right after Locke was paralyzed. He claims that his role is to get people where they need to be. That may have been why he assembled the team on the freighter, but they sure as hell weren't there to help anybody other than Widmore. We trust this guy even less.
When he visits Kate, the contempt is no longer being veiled--- she's openly hostile, and has no interest in saving anybody. She then asks Locke if he's ever been in love. When he tells her the truth--- he was, but his obsession cost him everything--- she's even more aggressive, telling him he hasn't changed at all. Locke has been mulling this over for awhile asks if they can find Helen. Abaddon does --- she's been dead for the past two years. (Locke apparently doesn't realize that if he'd been rescued, he would probably have been reunited with Helen, just as Sayid was reunited with Nadia. They would've had time together, and maybe that would've been enough to keep him away.) While leaving the cemetery, Abaddon is assassinated, and his terror trying to get away, he's involved in a collision.
He's ends up in Jack's hospital, but when Locke tries to cease upon this as fate, Jack calls it nothing more than probability. Jack got a slight growth of beard, and is slurring his words, but apparently he's still able to hold it together to chew out the man who opposed him every step of the way on the island. When Locke tells him that Christian says hello (unwittingly putting into action the events that will lead him back to the island) this a major blow to Jack, but he manages to keep his poker face (barely) until he's out of the room.
Having failed in every respect, Locke goes to a rotten hotel room, buys a length of extension cord, writes his suicide note, and prepares to hang himself. But just as he's about to jump off the desk, who should pop up but Ben? (Okay, we did see him in New York, so it's not a total surprise.) He then pleads with Locke not to do this, that Jack has bought his ticket to Sydney, and that somehow he reached him, and he can do it with the others as well. The scene is extraordinary as Locke finally allows himself to be talked down from killing himself. Then he tells Ben that Jin is still alive, and that the woman he needs to see to get back to the island is Eloise Hawking. The instant he hears this, Ben grabs that same extension cord, and uses it to strangle Locke (not unlike how Sawyer killed Anthony Cooper) He then takes Jin's ring, leaves Locke's body to look like a suicide, wipes the room clean of fingerprints,, and leaves Locke behind, with the words: "I'll miss you, John."
Why did Ben kill Locke is a question we're never going to get a real answer to. Did Ben think that it would be easier to get the Oceanic 6 back knowing Locke was dead? (Perhaps he was the one who wrote the obituary) Did he do it because he got the information he needed, and then Locke was expendable? Or did he really do it because he thought Locke was the Chosen One, and that when they brought his body back to the island, what appears to have happened would happen? For on the island, it seems that John Locke has come back from the dead.
A more pertinent question is what has happened on the island. For it appears that the plane somehow manage to crash on Hydra Island. (Was that really its name? Oh well, it seems to be canon now, so let's go with it. The passengers appear to have survived and seem a lot more organized than they did when Oceanic crashed. Two of them, Caesar and Ilana (the woman escorted Sayid on board) seem to be a lot more certain of themselves than people who have just been involved in... what? Because it seems that Ajira didn't crash. There was turbulence, a flash of light, some of the people on the plane disappeared (we now know they time traveled) and somehow the plane landed. This seems even more extraordinary than the circumstances that brought Oceanic 815 to the island. And the fact that Locke seems to be alive and well that seems to be the least shocking thing about it.
Locke says that he remembers dying, who the Dharma Initiative was, and that he spent a hundred days on the island. This is probably as good a time to start lying, and yet, contrary to the Oceanic 6, he's apparently more honest than ever. Which makes us wonder what kind of fireworks are going to erupt when Ben regains consciousness.
All the episodes about Locke are among the most fascinating Lost did, yet this episode is a little more special than others. For one thing, this is the last time that we will see the confused, worried, beaten-down man John Locke we've come to know and (doggone it) love. Terry O'Quinn has always given some of the most extraordinary work on this show (and he will again, but with a different subtext from now) but this performance shows him at the top of his game, particularly in the last long scene at the hotel, before and after Ben reenters. He always felt like a failure, and this episode shows that he had literally reached the end of his rope before he showed up. The expressiveness of his face is that of arguably the most versatile actor in a brilliant cast.
'The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham' does seem to live up to the title, even if it makes that whole period in the finale of referring to him as Bentham seem, you know, like bad writing. We want to know what happened and we want to see what comes next, but we're not going to get answer for awhile. Lost is about to begin another part of the journey--- this time thirty years in the past.